June 26, 2006

What is it with dragons and maidens, anyway?

Probably the funniest thing about Vivian Vande Velde's quick-paced novel, Dragon's Bait is the idea that dragons aren't really all that into, um, young maidens. See, it's a misconception, that's what it is. Of course, it isn't often talked about, because who really gets around to discussing it with the dragon before they're burnt to a nice turn and gulped whole? Alys does, and Selendrile, the dragon, tells her like it is: it's not the dragons who come up with the menu plan.

She asked, “Why is it dragons ask for maidens?”
The dragon-youth released her, his hand shaking. Startled, she looked up and saw that he was silently laughing. “Dragons don’t ask for maidens,” he said. “Dragons are offered maidens.”
Alys shook her head to show she didn’t understand.
“Is a king likely to be a maiden? Or a village headman? It’s the men who make the laws that decree that maidens be offered.”
Alys thought of all the lovely old songs, the grieving kings, the valiant knights. “That’s a lie,” she whispered.
“Perhaps.” She saw a glint in his eyes. “I do lie.”

A trumped-up charge of witchcraft leaves bewildered Alys chained to a post outside of town, waiting to die, while weeping over the loss of her father. She's angry enough to tell the dragon to come and get her, but when it does, what happens next is nothing like she imagined. A light and entertaining novel about revenge.

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